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Courts gear up against ex official

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By Cindy Simpson

The former Rockwood Public Works official charged with misusing public funds will have a status hearing Friday at 9 a.m.

Tom Pierce allegedly purchased cameras and equipment, numerous guns and clothing for himself.

Pierce resigned before a state investigative audit showed he amassed at least 11 guns and ammunition on the city’s dime.

The guns and other items, totaling $32,725 were believed to have been purchased using a city credit card between 2009 and 2012. Pierce was indicted in February.

Very little has been filed since, save for motions for discovery filed by Pierce’s attorney John McFarland within days of Pierce’s indictment.

Pierce’s charges include two counts of unauthorized use of a credit card and official misconduct.

Mayor James Watts admitted after the audit that more oversight was needed at city hall.

“There is fault to be laid in several areas. We did something as quickly as we found out what was going on. That doesn’t make any excuses for what happened,” Watts said.

Rene Brison, assistant director for Tennessee Comptroller’s Division of Investigations, indicated the first failure in oversight was with the finance officer.

She said the finance officer did not require Pierce to provide documentation and did not make officials aware that Pierce was making payments by phone.

Pierce is not the first Rockwood official to come under scrutiny by the state.

The late Howard Butler, who was former city recorder and judge, was held responsible for more than $425,000 in missing city funds.

An investigation was started in December 2000 after Butler told then-mayor Harold Holloway he had taken the money.

Butler was later found dead in his home by what was determined to be a self inflicted gun shot.